Numb3rs: Quake

Disclaimer: I don't own them, I just borrowed them. Numb3rs and its characters are the property of those that created them. No copyright infringement intended. No financial reward gained. All real places and organisations are used in a fictional sense. Original characters and the storyline are mine however.

CHAPTER FOUR


Pacing back and forth at the top of the stairs leading down to the subway station David could only wait while the rescue team worked their way down the tunnel. With Don's call they knew that both men were still alive, even if the agent was trapped, vital information which had diverted a team of rescuers to this location. The majority of effort was being concentrated at the next subway station down the line, Wilshire/Vermont, where a train had jumped the tracks before the emergency brakes could take effect.

As the quake struck David had been forced to organise the remaining commuters at the platform and get them safely above ground. He had wanted desperately to go after Don and their prisoner but he had to ensure the safety of the majority first. Don would expect nothing less. Once he'd managed to get everyone safely back up at street level he found himself tied up with calming panicked people and trying to ensure there was a clear path for rescuers to arrive as his attempts to call 911 joined all the others he could hear being made around him. Most of those calls were unnecessary, people feeling the need to call 911 to announce there'd been a quake rather than reporting any actual emergency situation involving them. The lines had been jammed so he'd called Don's cell directly instead and had been relieved to receive a response even if he could barely make out what his boss had been saying. The call soon dropped out and he'd resumed trying to get through to 911, he could have called Control but they would have had to relay the message across anyway so he stuck with it. Eventually he'd gotten through and reported that two men were trapped on the line somewhere between the two stations.

His urgent message relayed David had desperately wanted to go back down and see if he could make his way to his trapped boss himself but found himself having to stop bystanders from trying to enter the subway to look for friends they'd thought could be down there. He could accept the risk for himself but he couldn't allow anyone else to go down the stairs, he'd heard the sound of rocks falling and figured that at least some of the tunnel had collapsed which meant more sections could go at any time. Eventually rescuers had arrived and set up barricades to close off the station entrance.

With that job taken out of his hands David fronted the rescue team leader and after explaining the situation offered his assistance which was flatly refused. He'd argued but had been shut down in no uncertain terms. What was worse was that the man was totally right, this was no place for an untrained agent to tag along and he had to leave it to them. The team leader, Shields, had provided him with a radio however and it was to this he clung as he paced.

"Rescue 17 to base." Shields voice crackled. The reception was bad but not as bad as Don's cell phone had been. He could make out almost every word.

"Base."

"We've got survivors. Prepping … extraction."

"Copy that." The operator responded. "No upgrade to the USGS alert."

"Roger that. …clair, copy?" Shields added.

"Condition?" David demanded.

"… partner's fine. The prisoner is in serious …dition. We'll be up shortly." Shields reported tersely. "Rescue …, out."

David frowned at that. He started to raise the radio to query the report but he lowered it, question unasked. Shields was busy, it was better they get above ground where he could see for himself. As he waited he started to pace again, going over the call he'd made to Don earlier. From what he'd been able to make out he'd been sure it had been Don that was hurt, not Murphy. It didn't make sense but he'd outlined the situation to Shields before the team had gone down and he seemed to be fine with the apparent about face. The only reasonable conclusion was that reception from Don's phone had been bad so he must have gotten everything confused.

Finally there was movement from the subway and the first of the team started up, a stretcher carried in their midst as they climbed the stairs. Stepping out of the way he waited as they made it up to street level. The stretcher was carried over towards the waiting ambulance as David peered back down the stairs having not yet seen his boss. Another few seconds and there was still no sign. Turning he went after the group that were just now placing the stretcher onto the gurney waiting at the back of the ambulance.

"Shields, where-" David started as he pulled at the man's arm to get his attention. His line of thought stopped as he caught sight of the patient. "What the hell?"

"What's wrong, Agent Sinclair?"

"That's Agent Eppes." David declared, already moving to unlock the cuffs he could see around Don's left wrist. "What the hell is this? Where's Murphy?"

"That's Agent Eppes?" Shields demanded in surprise. "But he told us this was your prisoner."

The cuffs off David shoved at a paramedic that had already moved in, pushing her out of the way as he pulled back the silver emergency blanket to expose Don's waist. A single glance told him what he needed to know, Don's gun was missing. Their recently captured prisoner was now armed and on the loose. He'd also either taken advantage of Don's injuries or had caused them himself in order to escape. Non-violent profile be damned, until determined otherwise Murphy had just had his status upgraded to armed and dangerous.

"Where is he?" David demanded again, rounding on the rescue team leader.

Shields, understanding now that he'd been duped, pointed back down the stairs. "He was right behind us."

David pulled the paramedic back to start work on Don. "He's a federal agent, look after him. You and you, come with me." His last was directed at a couple of LAPD officers that had only just arrived at the scene.

"You can't go back down there!" Shields called after them, the tunnel was still dangerous enough on its own let alone with an armed man on the loose.

"Watch us!"

Running down the stairs gun out and ready he gave a quick briefing to the two officers. By the time they had reached the turnstiles they too had weapons out and were ready. The Fire & Rescue support team were still on the platform packing up their equipment but turned in surprise at the three moving quickly towards them, guns out. David didn't bother explaining.

"The agent that came out of the tunnel, where is he?"

"He went up there." One answered, a touch bewildered and alarmed as he waved his hand back up the stairs.

"Damn. He doubled back." David took a moment and looked around.

The platform was essentially undamaged, a couple of drink and food machines had fallen over and some advertisements had fallen from the walls but that was about it. The rescue support team were set up near the end of the platform closest to where Don had followed Murphy before the quake struck. It was unlikely Murphy could have gone back down that way without being spotted. That left the other end of the platform and the tunnel heading the opposite direction.

"Your radio work down here?" He demanded, looking at the nearest LAPD officer.

The man listened closely at the handset clipped to his epaulette before shaking his head, where there should have been constant chatter there was only a static filled hiss. He already knew the order the agent wanted relayed. "I have to go back up to call it in. I'll get a unit to the next station, if I can find one."

"Go." David understood. LAPD was stretched impossibly thin as it was, he was fortunate to have two officers here let alone trying to find another unit to go to a specific spot on his order. Nodding at the remaining officer he started off, the woman slightly behind and off to the side. If Murphy was waiting for them at best he would only take one of them out before the other could respond.

Reaching the end of the platform he flattened himself against the wall before risking a quick bob of his head around the corner to look along the tracks. Nothing. Receiving his signal the officer moved back a few yards before leaping down onto the tracks and quickly crouching into a ball to present a smaller target. Again, there was nothing as she started to uncurl and move to the far side of the tunnel. As she covered the relative darkness stretching away in front of them David also jumped down. Keeping to the opposite sides of the tunnel they started making their careful way along, their eyes adjusting to the dimmer light as they moved further from the station.

They had just moved past some sort of control box set low and squat between the tracks when David noticed a dark shape resting on the ground just behind it. Signalling a stop while he checked it out David risked a hooded flash from his penlight to be sure. The shape turned out to be Don's wallet, ID folder and badge. More importantly Don's Glock was resting next to the other items. His light reflected off Don's open notebook where the word 'sorry' was scrawled across a blank page. Picking the recovered items up David unloaded the Glock before shoving everything into his pockets; he couldn't afford to leave them behind even if the crime scene techs were sure to have a go at him later for disturbing evidence.

Continuing on they finally reached the Vermont/Santa Monica station without any sign of the fugitive. Waiting on the platform was the officer they'd left behind at the last station.

The man shook his head as he helped them up. "There was no-one else free. By the time I got here he could have already been out and gone. I asked around but no-one's really paying much attention. Sorry, Agent."

"Don't be, you did your best. Thanks." David responded. Holstering their weapons they made their way up to the street and the officer's cruiser. He was driven back to Don's SUV to find that the ambulance containing the injured agent had already left.

Reaching underneath the SUV at the spot Don had described to him some time ago David found the spare keys wired in place. Dragging them free he unlocked the vehicle and climbed in. Murphy was gone. Feeling the weight in his jacket pocket at least he knew the man was no longer armed. As to the dangerous classification, that would have to wait until he'd spoken to Don and found out just what had happened in the tunnel before rescue had reached them. Starting the engine he manoeuvred the large vehicle through the crowded streets heading for the hospital.

-100-1111-1110-

It was two days after the main earthquake; the following aftershocks when they finally started had been very mild in comparison, causing little additional damage. Overall the destruction had been far less than Don had expected given what had happened to the Red Line tunnel. The geologists had presented fancy diagrams on the news that purported to explain why the main damage had occurred between the Vermont/Beverly and the Wilshire/Vermont stations on the Red Line both above and below the surface. Charlie was off at CalSci going over all the fresh data to combine his efforts with that of the USGS just as he'd been doing almost since the main quake in an effort to fully understand exactly why the damage had occurred as it had.

But it really didn't make any difference knowing the why. It had simply been a miracle that in the end Don had been just that little bit too slow on the uptake as to what was happening before getting Murphy to turn and head back with him to the Vermont/Beverly station. The delay had meant they'd not gone as far back towards the station as they might otherwise have done and had thus not been directly under the main ceiling collapse, instead being caught on the edge of the main fall. Or rather, Don had been caught on the edge of the fall, Murphy being protected by the alcove Don had shoved him towards. If he'd truly been smart he would have crowded in behind him, regardless of the tightness of the space. If he'd done that Murphy wouldn't still now be on the loose.

They were sitting in the living room at Charlie's house, both of Don's legs propped up on a pillow on the coffee table, his right arm resting comfortably in a sling across his chest. His father was sitting in his favourite chair and David was on the other couch. His agent was just filling him in on the day's efforts to find Murphy but it was fast becoming obvious that the man had successful made good his escape. The confusion and panic around the earthquake had provided a perfect cover. The BOLOs had gone out but with so much movement and a heavy workload it was all LAPD could do to keep things under control let alone seek one relatively harmless fugitive while they were at it.

True, Murphy was no longer wanted just for fraud but for assault on a federal agent but the rest of the story had also come out as the media got wind of it and ran with it. While the public had been somewhat sympathetic towards the injured agent being knocked unconscious they were firmly on the side of the fugitive, fast turning him into some sort of folk hero.

"So he's in the wind."

David nodded. "Gone. Probably not even on the western seaboard any more."

"Is that really so bad?" Alan interrupted. At his son's look he elaborated. "Look, I'm not happy he hit you either but he did get you out from under the concrete and stay with you until help arrived. Besides, it sounds like what he's doing is not so bad."

"It's still fraud and against the law, Dad."

"I know, I know. I'm just saying," Alan finished.

Don relented and tempered his earlier statement. "His intentions are good, it's just the way he's going about it. It doesn't really matter now anyway, he's gone." That was why David was here to update him, the search for Murphy was over. They had other work to go on with and there had been no sign of the fugitive since Don's rescue.

"So it's done now?" Alan queried.

"He's still wanted, Mr Eppes. But until he turns up on our radar again that's pretty much it." David explained.

"Good." Alan declared. "And don't give me that look, Donny. I know you're okay with it."

He couldn't help the brush of his hand over the dressing on the side of his head even as he agreed with his father. "I suppose I am. It worked out in the end." Murphy had probably saved his legs, if not his life so he couldn't be too hard on the man.

"So, dinner, David?"

"I can't Mr Eppes. We may not be hunting Murphy any more but we still have others out there we need to put away. I'd better get back to it. A supervisor's job is never done."

At that Don couldn't help the small laugh. "Self inflicted, Sinclair."

"You were supposed to talk me out of it."

END